Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Chapter 75 [part 1 of 3]

How the Knight of the Green Sword left Constantinople to fulfill the promise he had made to the very beautiful Grasinda, deciding to leave with her for Great Britain to carry out her orders, and how he found Sir Bruneo de Bonamar badly injured while he was out hunting; and the adventure by which Angriote d’Estravaus encountered them, and how they all went together to the house of the beautiful Grasinda.

[A view of the Bran Castle bailey in Romania. From 1438 to 1442, this castle in a mountain valley between Transylvania and Wallachia was used to defend against the Ottoman Empire.]

When the Knight of the Green Sword left the port of Constantinople, the weather was good and the wind was right for his trip, which in time would lead to the land where his lady Oriana was. This made him joyful, although at the time he was more anxious and tormented than ever over her because he had lived for three years in Germany and two in Romania and Greece, and in that time he had not only received no message from her, he had not heard any news about her at all.

So he found it agreeable that in twenty days they made port in the town where Grasinda was. When she learned they had arrived, she was very happy for she already knew how he had slain the Endriago and defeated and killed the mighty giants in the Romanian islands. She adorned herself in her best to receive them, being a great and rich lady, and ordered horses be brought to him and to the doctor Elisabad when they left the galley.

He of the Green Sword dressed in fine clothing. He was mounted on a handsome horse and the doctor on a palfrey, and they rode to the town, where his rare and famous deeds were already known, and he was regarded at and honored by all as a marvel, and the doctor as well, who was of an illustrious and rich family in that land. Grasinda came out to meet them in the courtyard with all her ladies and damsels.

He dismounted and knelt deeply to her and she to him, as those who shared a fine love for each other.

Grasinda told him:

“My lord knight of the Green Sword, God has made you constant in all things, for having surpassed many dangers and accomplished amazing things, He has wished that your great good fortune bring you here to fulfill and complete the promise that ye gave me, for five days from today is the end of the year that ye had promised. May it please Him to give your heart so completely to fulfill the other boon that I have yet to ask of you.”

“My lady,” he said, “God willing, never would I fail to do what I have promised, especially to such a fine lady as yourself who has done me so much good, and if I place myself in your service, ye ought not thank me, for you gave me the doctor Elisabad, and because of that I still have my life.”

“His service is well-employed,” she said, “since it is so well appreciated. And now come to eat, for I have desire to ask nothing of you that your great valor cannot fulfill.”

Then she took him to a courtyard with beautiful trees where he had once been treated for his injuries, as ye have been told. There he and the doctor Elisabad were served as was fitting in a house of a lady who loved them so, and the Knight of the Green Sword lodged in a chamber adjacent to the courtyard for the night.

Before he went to bed, he spoke for a long while with Gandalin, telling how his heart was joyful to travel toward the place where his lady was, if the boon of that lady did not stop him.

Gandalin told him:

“My lord, take pleasure when it comes, and leave the rest to our Lord God, for it may be that the lady’s boon will serve to increase your pleasure.”

So he slept that night more peacefully, and in the morning he arose and went to hear Mass with Grasinda in her chapel, which she attended with her ladies and damsels. After it was said, she ordered everyone outside, took him by the hand, and sat next to him on a stone bench set into the wall. At his side, she said:

“Knight of the Green Sword, know ye that a year before ye came here, all the ladies of this land who were by far the most beautiful of all were together at a wedding for the Duke of Vaselia, where I went accompanied by the Marques Saluder, my brother, whom ye know. And when we were together, including myself, all the noblemen who had come to that wedding entered the hall. My brother the Marques, whether for his convictions or for madness, proclaimed loudly so that all would hear that my beauty was so great that it exceeded all the other ladies there, and if someone were to disagree, he would make them say it was true so by force of arms.

“I do not know if it was because of his courage or because the others agreed, but no one responded, and I stood judged as the most beautiful lady of all the beauties of Romania, which is a great land, as ye know. My heart has always been joyful and flattered by this, and it would be even more so and held more highly if ye can achieve what my heart desires so much. I would not hesitate to do what it might involve nor to spend money from my estate, no matter how much.”

“My lady,” he said, “ask for what would please you most, and if it is anything that I can do, I shall immediately execute it.”

“My lord,” she said, “what I ask for you as a boon is this: I know for certain that the court of King Lisuarte, Lord of Great Britain, holds the most beautiful women in the world. I ask that ye bring me there, and by force of arms if it cannot be by other means, ye have me win the glorious victory of beauty over all the damsels there in the same way that here I was victorious over all the ladies, as I told you, saying in his court that there is no damsel as beautiful as is the lady that ye bring. And if anyone were to contradict you, ye shall have them recognize the truth by force of arms. I shall bring a fine crown for you to wager for me, and the knight whom you might fight shall wager another, and the victor shall take both crowns to show that he has the most beautiful lady.

“If God has us leave there in honor, ye must take me to a place they call Firm Island, where they say there is a forbidden chamber where no woman, be she lady or damsel, may enter unless her beauty exceeds that of the very beautiful Grimanesa, who in her time had no par. This is the boon that I ask for.”

When the Knight of the Green Sword heard this, he grew pale, and he said with a mournful face:

“Oh, my lady, ye have killed me. If ye have done me well in the past, now ye have placed me in greater trouble.”

And so he was shocked senseless. He thought that if he were to go to the court of King Lisuarte for that reason, he would lose his lady Oriana, which he feared more than death. He knew well that there were many good knights who would defend her, and they would have righteousness and reason entirely on their side. So great was the difference in the beauty of Oriana and all other women in the world that he could not carry out that boon without dishonor or death.

He also thought that if he failed to comply with his word to that lady, even without considering all the honors and gifts that he had received from her, his honor and fame would be lost. Thus he was placed in the greatest confrontation since he had left Gaul. He cursed himself and his fate and the hour when he was born and when he had come to the lands of Romania.

But then he thought of a great remedy to the situation, which was that Oriana was not a damsel, and whoever fought over her would not have justice on his side. Afterwards he could see Oriana and make her understand what had happened. Having found this remedy, he ceased to worry over what had placed him in a more difficult position than he thought he would ever be in.

He became very happy, as could be seen on his face, as if nothing had happened. He told Grasinda:

“My good lady, I ask pardon for the affront I have done you, for I wish to fulfill all that ye ask of me, if it is the will of God. And if I hesitated, it was not due to my will but due to the lady of my heart, whom I cannot resist and for whom I had wished to travel elsewhere. That was the reason for what I said, for in all things she holds me subjugated. But the honors that I have received from you are so great that they overcome hers and leave me free to do what I can to bring about what ye wish without obstacle.”

Grasinda told him:

“Truly, my good lord, I fully believe what ye tell me. But I say that I was very upset when I saw you thus.”

And she reached out with her very beautiful arms, put them on his shoulders, and forgave what had happened, saying:

“My lord, when shall I see the day when your great skill at arms shall place on my head the crown that ye shall win from the most beautiful damsels in Great Britain, and I shall return to my lands with a great glory that shall set me apart from all the ladies of Romania?”

He told her:

“My lady, whoever is to travel that road must be careful, for ye shall have to pass through many foreign lands and people who speak unintelligible languages, suffering great travail and danger. If my boon had not been promised, and ye were to ask my advice, it would be none other than this: someone of such honor and high estate as yourself ought not to face such a challenge to win that without which she can still have glory due to her great loveliness and beauty.”

“My lord,” she said, “I am more impressed by your valor to travel than your advice, since having such help as yours, without any concern I hope to satisfy my desire, which for a long time I have ached to fulfill. And these strange lands and people that you speak of may be avoided, since we shall travel better by the sea rather than the land, according to what I have been told by many who know the way.”

“My lady,” he said, “I shall protect and serve you. Order me to do what shall best satisfy your will, and I shall labor to do so.”

“I deeply thank you,” she said, “and ye may expect to have such attire and company that a leader like you deserves.”

“In the name of God,” he said, “may it all be so.”

And that was what they decided.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Chapter 74 [part 3 of 3]

[How Amadis spent his final days in Constantinople, and how Emperor Patin's delegation traveled to Great Britain.] 

[Detail of the Hagia Sophia. Photo by Sue Burke.]

So as ye have heard, the Knight of the Green Sword spent six days in the court of the Emperor receiving the highest possible honors from him, the Empress, and the beautiful Leonorina. But he remembered that he had promised Grasinda to be with her within a year, and the date was nearing, so he spoke with the Emperor, saying that he needed to leave. He asked the Emperor by his grace to order him to serve him wherever he might be, for he would never be anywhere in such honor or pleasure or need that he would not leave it all behind to serve him, and if the knight were to learn that the Emperor needed his service, he would not wait for orders but would go where he needed to be.

The Emperor told him:

“My good friend, I am not pleased to have ye leave so soon, but ye may be excused so ye do not fail to fulfill your word.”

“My lord,” he said, “it cannot be avoided without greatly diminishing my honor and word, so as the doctor Elisabad knows, I have to be at a certain place and time as I promised.”

“If that is so,” he said, “I ask ye to rest here for three days.”

He said he would as he was ordered. At that moment, he was in the presence of the beautiful Leonorina, who took the edge of his cloak and said:

“My good friend, if at the request of my father ye shall be here for three days, I wish that by my request ye spend two with me, and these as the guest of myself and my damsels where I and they dwell, because we wish to speak with you without anyone interfering besides two knights whom ye would choose to give you company as ye eat and sleep. And I ask ye to give this boon with pleasure. If not, I shall have these damsels seize you, and I will not need to thank you for anything.”

Then he was surrounded by more than twenty very beautiful and finely attired damsels, and with pleasure and laughter, Leonorina said:

“Leave him be until he answers.”

He was delighted by what that beautiful lady did, holding it as the highest honor that had been done to him there, and he said:

“Blessed and beautiful lady, who would dare to fail to grant your will, since if he were not to, he would be placed in such a miserable prison? I grant what ye order, in this and any other service your father and mother and yourself may need. And, my good lady, I pray to God and His mercy that the time shall come when my lineage may properly thank and return the honors and gifts I receive from you.”

This would be entirely fulfilled not by the Knight of the Green Sword but by his son Esplandian, who would rescue the Emperor at a place and time when he needed help, as Urganda the Unrecognized will prophecy in the fourth book, and as shall be told in due time.

The damsels told him:

“Ye have made the right decision. Otherwise, ye could not escape a danger greater than the Endriago was.”

“I believe, my ladies,” he said, “that greater harm may come to me by angering angels than the devil, which it was.”

All this gave great pleasure to the Emperor and Empress and all the noblemen who were there, and the answers from the Knight of the Green Sword to everything that was said to him seemed very witty. This, even more than his great courage, convinced them he was high born, because courage and bravery are often found in people of low lineage and common judgement, but honest restraint and exquisite comportment are rarely found there, because this is due those who come from clean and noble blood. I do not affirm that all attain this, but I say that they are obliged to try to reach it, as the Knight of the Green Sword did, who surrounded his mighty heart with a border of great patience and loving kindness, protecting it so arrogance and ire would find no means to harm his high virtue.

So he of the Green Sword rested three days with the Emperor, who had his nephew Gastiles and the Marques of Saluder take him through the city to show him the amazing sites it held as the head and center of all Christendom. In the palace he spent the rest of his time in the chamber of the Empress speaking with her and the other great ladies who accompanied and waited on her.

Then he went to the rooms of the beautiful Leonorina, where he found many daughters of kings and dukes and counts and other great men, with whom he passed the most honored and amusing time he had spent in his life anywhere outside the presence of his lady Oriana. They happily asked him to tell them of the marvels of Firm Island where he had been, especially about the arch of the loyal lovers and the forbidden chamber, and who and how many had been able to see the wonderful images of Apolidon and Grimanesa, and to tell them about the ways of the ladies and damsels in the court of King Lisuarte, and the names of the most beautiful. He told them everything he knew with great discretion and humility, as he who had seen it and been there so many times, as this story has told.

And it happened that as he looked at the great and full beauty of the Princess and her damsels, he began to think about his lady Oriana and how if she were there, all the beauty in the world would be brought together in one place. And he thought about how far away she had been for so long and how he had no hope of seeing her, and he became faint and almost senseless. Thus the ladies realized that he was hearing nothing that they said. He spent some time that way until Queen Menoresa, who was lady of a great island named Gabasta, the most beautiful woman of all Greece besides Leonorina, took him by the hand and made him come back from where he had been lost in thought, which he left moaning and sighing as a man who felt great anguish. But when he was more self-aware, he felt great embarrassment, and realized that he ought to be reprehended by all those ladies.

He said:

“My ladies, do not consider it odd or surprising that he who sees the great beauty and grace, which God has placed in you, may think of some good fortune that he has experienced with great honor and pleasure, and remember its loss in such a way that I do not know when I may recover it either through desire or any labor I might do.”

He said this with the sadness that his tormented heart sent to his face, and all the ladies were moved to pity for him. But with great effort he retained the tears that his heart sent to his eyes and tried to return the lost happiness to himself and to them. In this way and others like it the Knight of the Green Sword spent the time he had promised there, and when he needed to say farewell, the ladies gave him very fine jewels. But he did not wish to take any of them besides the six swords that Queen Menoresa gave him, which were the most handsome and finely decorated that could be found in the world, and she said that she only gave them to him so that, when he gave them to his friends, he would think of her and those ladies and how much they loved him.

The beautiful Leonorina told him:

“My lord Knight of the Dwarf, I ask the courtesy of you that, if ye can, ye must come and see us again soon and be with my father, who esteems you highly. And I know that ye give him and all the nobles of his court great pleasure, and even more to us, because we find ourselves under your protection and defense if anyone were to trouble us. And if this cannot be done, I and all these ladies beg you to send us a knight of your lineage to serve us as may be necessary and whom we may speak to, thinking of you and forgetting some of the loneliness that your departure gives us. We fully believe from seeing you that ye must have relatives who would not cause you much shame.”

“My lady,” he said, “it can be said with truth that in my lineage there are such knights whose excellence makes mine look like nothing, and among them there is one whom I trust that if by the mercy of God he were to come to your service, he would return the great honors and gifts that I have received from your father and yourselves undeservedly, so that wherever I may be, I may believe that I am no longer in your debt.”

He said this thinking of having his brother Galaor come there to increase his honor, where his great skills would be appreciated as much as they ought to be. But that did not happen as the Knight of the Green Sword expected. Instead, in place of his brother, Sir Galaor, another knight of his lineage came there at such a time that he made the beautiful lady suffer so much anguish and worry that it would be hard to recount, because at sea and on land he had such amazing and dangerous adventures that not in his time nor for a long time afterwards could an equal be found, as shall be told in a branch of these books called The Exploits of Esplandian, as ye have already been told.

After the lady Leonorina earnestly begged him to return or send or the knight he spoke of, and he had promised to do so, she gave him permission to go. All the ladies went up to the windows, which they did not leave until they had lost sight of his galley in the sea.

Ye have been told earlier how the Emperor Patin sent his cousin Salustanquidio accompanied by a great many knights, and Queen Sardamira with many ladies and damsels, to King Lisuarte to ask for his daughter to marry. Now know that these messengers, wherever they went, sent letters from the Emperor to the princes and grandees they found on the way that asked them to honor and serve the Empress Oriana, daughter of King Lisuarte, whom he already considered his wife.

Although their words expressed their good will to do so, privately they prayed to God that such a fine lady, daughter of such a king, would not be taken by a man as scorned and despised by all those who knew him. They did that for good reason, for his immoderate behavior and arrogance was so overwhelming that, no matter how great anyone was within his realm or who had been conquered, none of them received any honor from him. Instead, he despised and vilified them, as if in that way he thought he could make himself more safe and lofty.

Oh, how mad is it for any prince to think that if he deserves to be despised by those whom he rules, he may be beloved by God! And if he is despised by God, what can he hope for in this world and the next? Truly, he can hope for nothing in one or the other except to be dishonored and destroyed and his soul forever sent to hell.

The ambassadors arrived at a port facing Great Britain called Zamando, and they waited there until they could find ships to carry them across. Meanwhile they sent word to King Lisuarte that they were coming to him with a message from their lord the Emperor that would please him greatly.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Exploits of Esplandian

Montalvo hoped to start an epic series, and he succeeded. 

“The exploits of the virtuous knight Esplandian, son of Amadis of Gaul”


The story of Amadis of Gaul dates back to the 1300s. The oldest version we have was printed in 1508, and is divided into four books, but originally there had been only three. The author, Garcí Rodríguez de Montalvo, explains the reason for the addition in the prologue:

“I corrected these three books of Amadis, such as they could be read, due to poor writers or very corrupt and dissolute scribes, and I translated and emended a fourth book and The Exploits of Esplandian, a sequel, which up until now no one can recall seeing. By great good fortune, it had been discovered in a stone tomb beneath a hermitage near Constantinople and was brought by a Hungarian merchant to eastern Spain in such ancient script and old parchment that it could only be read with much difficulty by those who knew the language.”

Of course, that’s not quite true. The third book ended tragically, which satisfied Medieval tastes, but Montalvo gave it a more optimistic Renaissance outcome, which allowed him to write a fourth book. He also added “doctrinal improvements” to Amadis of Gaul that you may have already noticed, adding a kind of piety more in keeping with Renaissance thought.

The “fifth book,” The Exploits of Esplandian (Las Sergas de Esplandián), opens:

“Here begins the branch from the four books about Amadis, called Las Sergas de Esplandían, which was written in Greek by the hand of the great master Elisabat, who saw and heard of many of his great deeds... and was translated into many languages for the provinces and kingdoms where... having read of the great things of his father, they were eager to see those of his son.”

The book ends inviting other writers to continue the stories, and that came to pass. Las Sergas de Esplandián enjoyed ten edition between 1510 and 1588, and during that century, eight more books were written about Amadis’s family in Spain, and those, too, achieved great success over the decades. (The exception is Book VIII, Lisuarte de Grecia by Juan Díaz, published in 1526, which was overly pious and boring, so it sold badly.) If that were not enough, another 75 novels of chivalry about other knights were published in Spain in the 1500s.

In addition to translations of the Amadis books into several languages, the Amadis family story was extended in Italy, Germany, and France with many additional sequels. In the end, the family tree grew into a sequoia. You can see a pdf of the Amadis clan including the Spanish and Italian branches, published by the Biblioteca Nacional de España, here (scroll down).

Unlike his father, Esplandian fights infidels in war, not individual fellow Christian knights. In much of the book, the son leads a crusade to protect Constantinople from the siege of King Armato of Persia and his Islamic allies. (Constantinople fell in 1453 to the Ottomans, and Sergas was published in 1510, so that was either wishful thinking or alternate history.)

Esplandian also fought for different reasons – not for earthly fame and honor, as he himself explains in Chapter II:

“...if the great things that my father did in this world with so much effort and such a courageous heart and no small danger to his life, so exceedingly well and amid such good men, had been employed in service to the Lord, there could never have been any man equal or comparable to his virtue and valor. But instead he has eagerly sought the things of this mortal world rather than those that shall last forever.... So may it please the Lord on High that, while I resemble my father somewhat, if I exceed his skill, it may be by aiming more to save my soul than to honor my body, and by avoiding everything that may offend Him.”

Montalvo, however, sought worldly fame, “wishing that some shadow of remembrance remain of me,” and shamelessly advertised the sequel to Amadis of Gaul within its “corrected” text. That’s one of the things we can remember him for.